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Sample variances & ANOVA: How different is too different?

  1. Aug 15, 2011 #1
    Koosis: Statistics..., 4th ed., p. 177:

    The given answer is yes. "You must be prepared to assumed the populations from which you are sampling are normally distributed" and that "the teaching method is the only reasonable explanation of the differences between groups."

    In the next problem, the situation is the same, but the data are different. Now the sample variances are 144, 81 and 64. Can ANOVA be done on these data? Answer no, the sample variances are too different.

    The obvious question: How different is too different?

    One thought I had was to do an F test with null hypothesis the population variances are equal, alternative the population with the biggest sample variance has a bigger population variance than the population with the smallest sample variance. But in Excel, with a 5% significance level, I get a critical value of 3.68. The F scores for both ratios of sample variances are less than this: 100/64 = 1.56 and 144/64 = 2.25. So I guess this isn't the criterion. But why not? And what is?

    Another question: what are the populations in this case: three sets each consisting of a hypothetical continuum of infinitely many identical students? Or three copies of the same finite set of actual students, depending on context? Or some ill-defined three copies of the same large, but finite set of all students in history who might conceivably be taught, or have been taught, by these methods, whose population parameters are only approximated by the normal probability measure? Or is it not advisable to think too hard about what population means in such cases?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 17, 2011 #2

    Stephen Tashi

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    You have a very thorough and rigorous approach to studying mathematics, so I can't resist asking why you are bothering to study statistics. Applying statistics to anything is a largely subjective and non-rigorous activity!

    If a test involving sampling assumes "a normal population" then the bottom line for the population must be that independently drawn samples from it have a normal distribution, so the mathematically simplest way to visualize the population of students would be to visualize an infinite population of them, having a continuum of values. Of course, taking that idea seriously would rule out applying statistics to many real world problems, so your thought of "it is not adviable to think to hard" about the population is the one that is usually applied.
  4. Aug 17, 2011 #3
    Okay, thought center deactivated : )

    But, philosophy aside, I guess there's some rule of thumb though, at least? I read that the central limit theorem applies for a given, fixed sample size of at least 30, and that the binomial distribution is a good approximation for the hypergeometric when the population is at least 20 times larger than the sample size, and that each cell should have a value of at least 5 for the chi square test to give reasonable results. What rule of thumb is Koosis applying in this case? By what criterion - however rough and subjective - would you decide whether sample variances were too different to apply ANOVA?
  5. Aug 17, 2011 #4

    Stephen Tashi

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    I don't know the answer to question "how different is too different". Tutorials on the web apply the F test, just as you did to investigate the equality of variances.

    I doubt the following is Koosis's reason, but it would be an excuse to reactivate the thought center: Bonferoni correction: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonferroni_correction
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